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Asian Children Financially Supporting Parents

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Him of Make Love Not Debt just recently wrote about Asian Culture and Finances and the concept of children supporting their parents and asked that I share my own thoughts on the subject.

I don’t feel compelled to “pay my parents back for raising me” nor do my parents feel as though they should be “paid back for raising me,” however, I do whatever they ask because they’re my parents – not because I feel obligated because they raised me. At the moment I don’t send money home not because I’m a derelict son but because my parents didn’t ask me to, if they did I would certainly send money home. If my parents did need money, I’d send it in a heartbeat; I very much believe in the concept that everything is the family’s money. What I make goes into a pot that can be used for anyone else in the family, it just happens to be in an account with my name on it (or in an account with someone else’s name on it).

The thing is, every family dynamic in every culture is different. Take for example the story of Mai, who was laid off and still spent $6,000 on his parents for a vacation package to China. In my family, if I was laid off, the last thing my parents would want me to do is spend $6k so they could go on a trip to China. I don’t know if that out of responsibility or what, but in my family it wouldn’t be something that made sense. No job and you spend $6k on anything (let alone a vacation for anyone, you can always wait until next year after a job has been secured)? That just wouldn’t fly. (Of course, that story might be a little overblown just to get in the papers but whatever)

How does this work with my fiancee, who isn’t Asian? It better jive just fine because that’s the way it is.

Just kidding. 🙂 She’s fine with it because her sense of family is just as strong as mine, though the basic ground rules are slightly different as one would expect from a different family and a different culture. She’s a very caring and generous person, even to strangers, and so if you ask for her opinion of caring for someone who is actually related to you, it’s a no-brainer. I don’t think I could marry someone who wasn’t. 🙂 (Crowd: Awww…)

{ 60 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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60 Responses to “Asian Children Financially Supporting Parents”

  1. D says:

    I have the same view as you. As an Asian American male, I find that my money is just as much my parents as it is mine. In fact. My parents trust me enough to invest 100k+ of their money on behalf of them. If and when they need me (energy, time, and resource), I’d be there for them in a heartbeat.

  2. Nigel says:

    I am a first-generation Indian immigrant and can certainly relate to this topic.

    For my grandparents’ generation, having children was a way of securing their financial future, since the children were expected to take care of their parents. In my parents’ generation, there are not many who expect their children to literally take care of them, but I am sure they expect their kids to help them if they are in financial need. As for me, I have no expectation of financial “payback” from my US-born children. I am sure that it will be hard enough for them to secure their own financial future, let alone having to worry about their parents.

  3. Jay says:

    I set up a joint savings account and each month I deposit a small amount in there. I tell my parents if they ever need money to just take it out of there.

    To date they still haven’t touched it, but the idea is just so ingrained in me that I do it out of habit…also because most of my other Asian friends do as well. So I guess the peer pressure thing really kicks in!

  4. Jonathan says:

    Right on, my brotha. My parents still send up to their parents. I would send money “up” the chain if it was needed, but nowadays it’s more like “just make sure I don’t end up in a nursing home some day”.

    I agree, my fiancee didn’t grow up in 1st-generation immigrant either, but she still has the same family values as me. Of course, I’m sure this sense of family is all over the place, it just feels like it’s getting rarer and rarer huh? Gotta stop watching the news.

  5. Jen says:

    My parents don’t ask for money but I force them to let me pitch in anyway.

    By helping them out, my parents’ living standard is higher. It just doesn’t feel right if I am out wasting money on material goods when my parents are barely surviving on their minimum incomes.

  6. Savvy Steward says:

    What? Jim, I didn’t know you were Asian.

    With my parents I think there is an aspect of parent/child mentality that would never allow me to help them out financially. I don’t know if it is a saving face thing, but I don’t think my dad would ever come to me to ask for help if he was in a financial pickle. No doubt, I would offer to help, but I think my parents would want to shield me as much as they can to not be a burden on me or my sister. I don’t know if this is a common theme in Japanese culture.

    My fiancée on the other hand, who comes from a Chinese culture, would probably be expected to help her parents in times of need. Both of us are totally willing to help either of our families if they needed it. The question is whether they would verbalize it and eventually accept the help.

    • Melanie says:

      My husband and his family are 3rd generation Japanese. His parents are both in their 70’s but just like yours, they never allow him to help them financially because they want him to save his money for his future and for his own family. If he visits and he buys them groceries or other things, they will secretly put money in his wallet or bag which he will only find out when he is back home. On the other hand, my Filipino parents demands that my siblings and I supports them financially every month. They would always make a comment that we owe them for sending us to school so we have to pay them back now that we are earning our own money. If we miss giving them their monthly allowance-we will hear comments like how grateful and kind their friend’s son’s or daughter’s are because they always give the paren’s money and other material things.

      This is not an exaggeration. Majority of the Filipino parents have the feeling of entitlement.They believe that they are entitled to share the income of their children plus providing for the younger siblings. I have a 36 year old brother who decided not to finish school and to do drugs instead. He is clean now but is still very lazy to work. He depended on my other siblings and my parents most of his life. When my brother’s got tired of suppoting him, my parent’s told me that it’s my turn. I don’t want to be an enabler so I turned them down which caused my parent’s to curse me and tell me that I am an ungrateful child.

  7. dong says:

    I think asian families do have a different attitude towards money, it’s more “it’s all in the family” attitude. I think in general that’s good thing if it’s done right. I mean I try to help my parents out whenever I can. They don’t ask for it nor do they expect it. But I think I owe it to them. Being in somewhat typical immigrant family, they worked hard so I’d have it pretty good. And I have it pretty good. Why wouldn’t I want to give them something back if I can? But here’s the rub, if they expected that I was obligated then I might be less inclined. I mean it’s like wedding gift (or at least how I feel about wedding gifts). Gifts are not an obligation, but you should give one. Giving a gift is right, but not giving one isn’t wrong.

  8. DC says:

    Asian parents pay for their kids’ college tuition, some even pay for graduate school. Asian parents expect their kids to pay pack in return.
    However, the youngest generation in Asia have a hard time for financial secure themselves. The Asian parents do not expect much as last generation.

  9. Ted V says:

    As a WASP American this concept is foreign to my experience. My parents would never accept cash from me. They won’t even let me pay for food if I’m with them. American parents have a mentality that they are supposed to care for their children through life. Likewise, I also believe too many American children are very self centered and have an unhealthy sense of entitlement.

    Obviously children usually end up caring for their parents in some capacity at old age. However due to American’s strong sense of independence combined with the break up of so many traditional family units, I believe this sense is declining.

    Not trying to stereotype, but I’m wondering what percent of Asians that give back work in some kind of family owned business?

  10. All the time, everyone does it. You take your parents into your home. I’ll probably do it, but I hope I have enough to buy my mom a house. I know lots of asian couples who have bought second and third homes for their parents to live in. Guess that’s where my idea is coming from, and DH well he is completely in line with it, only he suggested NEXT DOOR! ugh, everybody loves raymond…nuts.

  11. You know my parents gave me a college education, but I grew up with my grandparents living off my parents. So that’s all I know. DH is in line with this thought because his parents helped his grandparents as well. So we’re basically broke right now saving for 3 homes, when normal people would say are you nuts? Yes siree we are.

    But a lot of my friends are expected to pay back parents. Because their parents paid for their wedding, gave them the DP on their homes, bought them cars, etc. We didn’t get that from our parents, but we still feel obligated. Could just be that our parents don’t have that kind of money, but I also know part of it is that my friends parents expect to be supported later.

  12. DC says:

    Giving back to parent is not the only concern that Asian parents have. Some older generation-now about 70-100 years old even require their sons to live with them. Of course, some of them do not get alone with their daughter-in-law well. That is traditional Asian.

  13. Ingr says:

    I’ve never viewed this as “paying my parents back”, but rather as taking care of them when they get older. My parents and I have never discussed this, but growing up as the child of first generation immigrants from Taiwan to the United States, I guess I just sensed the idea that hey when my parents get older I will take care of them rather than throwing them into a nursing home in the traditional Asian’s view of how American kids treat their parents. I just graduated from college and the idea of how this will all financially work out scares me, but I feel no hesitation in helping out my parents.

    I’m regards to the family owned business question, my parents like most Asians run a restaurant and my brother and I were both obligated to work. Growing up we never fathomed the idea of getting paid for helping out because we’re all family.

  14. moom says:

    Interesting that a lot of PF-Bloggers are Asian-Americans. I’m Jewish (and born in Europe – my mother and brother live in Israel). My girlfriend is Chinese, but she is born in the PRC and all her family live there in a mjor city with professional jobs. Maybe after 50 years of communism and post-communism a lot of this traditional stuff was broken down. Anyway, their attitudes to money seem more in line with my own families where it is more the parents that help the children in the expectation that the children will raise the next generation. Of course if the parents need help they will get it. A previous girlfriend also from the PRC had slightly more traditional views but she grew up in a smaller city further south. Maybe that made a difference? Her parents were professionals (dentist, engineer) as well.

  15. Sakiko says:

    The problem is that Asian cultures (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, etc) believe that they give birth to children and it is their children’s right to give them money when they grow up or else they won’t inherit anything. This is so wrong. When children are born, they don’t know what their obligations are.

    I have the same delima. I am part Japanese and Chinese American (3rd Generation) from California. Yes, I do agree with the blog: my parents still brag among their friends how successful their daughter is – working in a nice investment firm job in NYC, nice car, nice condo with a nice Caucasian husband, 2 kids, blah, blah. However, I have not given them any money since I left home for college. (I did give them some money when I was working part-time in high school). If I have not saved enough money for retirement, how can I give them money for monthly money? Besides, I don’t even live in my parents home.

    I have 2 sisters who brag that they each give their parents $300 per month and $1,000 per month respectively. They gang up on me to tell my parents that I’m a bad daughter and I think this is unfair. Of coure I will help my parents if they are in need but I will not give them money every month just for the sake of the tradition. Because of this, I shy away from most family dinners and get togethers.

    I make $200,000 per year in salary, living and working in Manhattan with a husband and 2 kids. It may sound like a lot of money to you all but $200,000 is not a lot of money if you live in Manhattan where the cost of living is so sky high. At the end of the month, I don’t even have enough money to save or to put away in my T Rose Price mutal funds account. This is the truth. Filial piety today in United States have gone out of hand in the Asian parents community. I am pretty sure my parents’ friends in Chinatown have been ganging up on me.

  16. Alice says:

    I’m leaving for college this fall, and my parents have already told me that they will pay for every single thing… which includes graduate (law) school.

    My parents are doing that because they love me too much, not because they want financial payback. In fact, they specifically told me that they won’t ever need my help. They can’t bare seeing me burying myself in loans before I’m even out of school.

    Because all 4 of my grandparents are alive and well-off, my parents don’t need to send money up the chain. Well, they still do it for the sake of doing it, but my grandparents are actually sending money “down the chain.” My grandparents just bought a house in my mom’s name, and whenver I go back to China, they stuff cash into my hands 😀

    But I agree with the “money stays in the family” idea. My parents’ money are my money (especially since I’m an only child), and whatever I make in the future also belongs to my parents (because I belong to my parents) 🙂

    If someday, they become penniless, and I only have one bowl of rice myself, I would add extra water, making it into porridge, and share it with them. That’s how much I love my parents.

  17. Alice says:

    I forgot to mention something in my previous comment.

    I’m not expected to “pay them back” but it’s expected that I will do for my children what they did for me.

    And typo: it should be “bear” not “bare” -_-

  18. np says:

    I have the same delima. I am part Japanese and Chinese American (3rd Generation) from California. Yes, I do agree with the blog: my parents still brag among their friends how successful their daughter is – working in a nice investment firm job in NYC, nice car, nice condo with a nice Caucasian husband


  19. Anonymous says:

    wow. is anybody writing these comments married? if so, how does your spouse feel about your money also being your parents money? i’m all for helping family out (especially in retirement and in times of financial need). however, i disagree with the mentality of “my money is my parents money.” whatever happened to financial boundaries? whatever happened to marriage comes first, even before parents?

    • Non-Asian Wife says:

      Hi, I’m not asian, married to an asian man, and this has been a difficult subject for us. I personally found it espcially hard since my spouses parents don’t approve of me, my job, or my life choices, but *do* approve of me paying off my husband’s debt with my money prior to marriage, and giving extra monthly from my pay, for them to enjoy (they like it given in a little red envelope with a bow). Out of ‘Filial Piety’ and not an actual financial need. Finally, it became so bad my husband and I are seeing a therapist, and we’re looking at terminating the relationship. Personally, I come from a family where helping each other during times of duress is completely expected. His family’s and his expectations are that I’ll do without reliable transportation, lunches, and toiletries in order for them to eat organic and have nicer electronics. This includes his sister, who’s still living at home without a job. So, as the spouse, it is something you should disclose before marriage, because mine didn’t and it’s been terrible!!!

      • Willow says:

        I really feel for you dear Non-Asian-wife, but remember:
        It doesn’t have to be like this!
        My spouse after months of arguing and reasoning understood that there was something wrong about it, so it doen’t have to be the end of your marriage.
        Therea are many asians who feel like us but they are to afraid to speak out.

      • Another Non-Asian Wife says:

        Thank you for your post. I’m in total agreement with you and have found this Asian concept of giving money to one’s family when they clearly are not in need of it, to be frankly stupid! Especially when one’s own family is living a much less extravagant lifestyle. This has caused quite a big problem especially since my husband attempts to donate to his family without my knowledge and behind my back. Why should my husband’s family be allowed to spend our hard earned money on expensive restaurants and designer clothes when we eat at fast food and shop at Target and Walmart?

        • asian daughter says:

          I am Asian but I completely understand how you feel. You became your husband’s first priority when he married you.
          I am also supporting my parents. My other siblings are not in the position to do so at this time. Sometimes, I feel that it is not fair, but what can they do? I am happy that I have the means to help, but at the same time, I am tired of giving up so much of my own resources that I am having a hard time budgeting.
          But, with regards to your situation, you and your husband should agree on how much money to give to his parents and stick to it. It’s good to be generous but you bopth have your future to take care of as well.

          • Indian Daughter says:

            Hi Asian Daughter,

            I know exactly how you feel. Until today I have arguments with my mom over her finances. I have 4 siblings and none were helping until recently – even then, it’s only 1/3 of what I usually give my mom. I had been doing this since I started working after college 10 years ago. On top of monthly allowances, I also give extra for Christmas, weddings or any significant occasions. My dad passed away last year – this brought my contribution a little low, but I was so unhappy – I felt like I was taken advantage of. So, I asked my mom to find a job. She did, but the salary was not enough. So of course I still have to top off. Also, my mom is not old – she is 52. My siblings live with my mom now, and they have not been helping at all. If anything, I think they make my mom go crazy. I asked them all to contribute and like I said, combined it’s not enough at all. My mom has also been getting sick lately. If she loses this job, it’s back to square one. I know I am supposed to help my parents, but what is the limit? Is there any? My family had been completely reliable on me for the past 10 years – I paid off the house, renovated it, bought my mom’s car, took care of all medical bills, utilities – you name it! I feel bad that I am putting pressure n my mom, but it’s really not fair. Yes, I can afford it, but does that mean I have to share it with them all the time? My husband is not and asian – bless his heart, he tries really hard to understand the situation and has learned about Asian cultures through me. My mom is not living the high life – but I just quit my job recently – an 86 hour job with a few days off in between. We don’t have children which helps. I’m sorry for this long reply – I was just frustrated and it’s nice to know I am not alone in this sick culture we live in.

      • ready to leave says:

        i’m ready to leave…my husband is completely supporting his parents in the middle east. he told me this when he asked me to marry him 2.5 years ago. he did not tell me we would be poor, struggling financially, i would never be able to buy anything for my 15 yr old daughter who lives with us. i rely on her dad for any extras she ever needs. i have to turn my grocery receipts in to him at the end of the day, everyday. it does not matter that he is kind, and soft spoken, and enjoys being married. he wants me to cook, clean, and do laundry without any payback for myself besides a roof over my head. the worst part, his sister is rich, very rich, and lives 15 minutes from his partents. we live in the US. he says he can’t ask her to help…he is “THE SON” and this is how it will be. that’s it, no more discussion. i don’t believe he loves me. he doesn’t want a nice life for me. he doesn’t care that his parents live in a beautiful 3 bedroomhouse 3 bathrooms, marble floors and all hardwood throughout and that our apartment is absolutely embarrassing to have anyone over to visit. i’m 48 and never thought i’d be in this situation…ugh

  20. Asian Female says:

    I’m Asian and my parents expect me to give them a monthly allowance as well as money (hong bao) on major holidays. My parents raised me so I definitely should help out. What is difficult is that my father took out a lot of loans when we were growing up and the expectation is that we are to give him money no question asked every time he needs it. It is difficult because we’re averaging $30,000 a year to my parents right now. If we refuse, then it’s the silent treatment or the Asian guilt trip about how much they’ve sacrificed for us and how not filial we are. So in order to maintain any sort of relationship with my parents, my husband and I continue to give, even though it means both decreased living standards for us as well as the added stress of still trying to pay off two private graduate school loans. At the end of the day, I think in traditional Asian culture, kids do not have any rights in the sense that parents are always right. Would I do this to my children? No…. but my parents are old school..

    • Another Non-Asian Wife says:

      Your parents are emotionally blackmailing you. And only you can stop enabling their bad behavior. How are you going to provide for your future children if you are still in debt because you are giving all your savings to your parents? You say you have no rights…this is America…you have lots of rights…including the right to say NO!

  21. Willow says:

    Yes, all nice and fair, but what do you do when you have a mother and a big sister that are completely irresponsible, unable to manage their life, making bad choices and are a complete mess? Is that right to keep sending them money and putting yourself and your spouse in continuous hardship??
    Especially when a spouse is not Asian, have plans for the future, still have to finish school and working at the same time.
    Even if I am Asian I feel that there is a limit especially if the parents just waist money.

  22. Willow says:

    Taking care of your parents when they are old and cannot work anymore is fair and right, even a little help before that if you are financially in a better position.
    But this idea that you have to pay them back because they raised you is just
    Things have to travel forward not backwards, you pay them back by raising your own good family.
    How you are supposed to do this if you must give money to them all the time?
    They want to give the silent treatment?
    They are very welcome!
    Certainly I don’t let my parents to push me down and this doesn’t mean I am a bad son!
    Which good parent want to see their offspring in financial hardship?
    They had their chances in life let your children have theirs!!!
    About money which stay in the family it can be a good thing too but as said: IF DONE PROPERLY and with a high level of integrity!
    Not just with some family members just taking advantage and contributing little (whit money or any other kind of help)
    Parent are not always right and it’s time to let them know!

  23. Non-Asian Wife says:

    Thank you Willow and Another Non-Asian Wife, I appreciate the supportive comments.
    I just want to say it means alot to me that others go through teh same issues. It’s tough, you want to be sharing with family, but not foolish or taken advantage of.
    Good luck to all who’re in a tough situation with the family.

  24. Chris says:

    I can’t believe that someone’s parents would be selfish enough to go on the vacation during such a time.

  25. EMB says:

    I agree 100 percent that the idea asian concept of the kids owing the parents a living is stupid.I am white and married a asian giel from vietnam.When we got married i payed for all the wedding and also i pay her medical bills and living expenses for a year while we wait for her green card her parents never help with anything at all.On our honeymoon i have to pay foe her entire family to travel with us i pay for airfare everything they never say thank you at all.I always pay for them to go out and never did i recive a thank you.Then when my wife comes to america she do nails and our dream was to open a nail shop.In 3 years of work she made around 26000 a year and most of it was in cash never taxed.I pay all the bills at home mortage everything.Now after 3 years the only thing she have to show for work is a used car she paid 7000 for.The rest almost 99percent she send home to her lazy parents who will not work or try to do better.Her dad is a drunk and has not worked in 4 years but he lives like king in a house 4 times more big then ours he has new motorbikes and brags how great his things are.My wife spent all her nail shop money some of which was mine for that stupid house.I struggle to pay the bills and she will not even help out with the power bill.Now she has her 10 year green card and she says she wants a devorce she says she can live on her own.Her parents put her up to this because they know i am the only thing keeping her from beening there slave.That is what she will be i know that for sure i really love her and feel sorry for her.Also my parents give her parents 2000 as loan and still not pay back.THere are some asian parents using this guilt trip over there kids and that is evil.I am a irish american and i belive in what the bible says that a mans first family after God is his wife and kids.

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